Before the hot dogs, a little Park Preaching:
“Innocent people get caught up in our sin. Everyone here knows what “sin” is, right? It’s our mistakes. It’s our evil. It’s our decisions to not do good. I don’t have to explain this, right, you all know what sin is?”
Plenty of hands up.
I continue: Well, it’s also part of our nature. It’s our bent. And, you all know innocent people, too many times, reap the results, the consequences of our sin.
How many here admit their sins hurt and have hurt other people? (Hands up.) So, you know what I am talking about. God has something for you—and for you who have been hurt by the sins of others.
Well, here in Isaiah 25, God has something for those who had reaped the results of sin and rebellion against God. Especially the innocent, who had to share in the punishment, the exile, when God dealt with their sin. There would be a time when God would make a feast for all peoples on His mountain.
(Strange, it seems every time God does something to heal and forgive and restore His people, it’s over food—do you wonder why CPC in The Hill does so many things related to food!)
God promises that “he will swallow up” the “covering that is cast over all peoples, the veil that is spread over all nations.” And what is this “covering,” this “veil”? It is death. For, Isaiah tells us in the next line: he “will swallow up death forever.” This is the end of sin. We, right here in the Hill, have seen too much death. We know this covering because we have seen it. This is the veil that hangs over us: Death. Death from violence. Death from bad (sinful) decisions. Senseless. Needless. Death.
God promises he will take this away. And we hear, “the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces.” Tears are what we feel when the results of sin hit us, our sins, the sins of others, the sin that infests our lives and community: tears from fatherless homes, tears from lose of loved ones, tears because life is hard and lonely. God will wipe away those tears.
And, God will take away “the reproach of his people.” We all know what shame is, do we not? Anyone here felt shame, shame because of what you have done? (Believe it or not, plenty of hands went up all around, even from a few of the men.) Shame because of what has been done to you? (Again, hands up.) Well, God promises to take this reproach—the marks of sin—from you.
Here’s that promise, on that day, after all our waiting and wandering, God will save us. He will bring us salvation. “Let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation,” Isaiah writes. You see, though, God has already begun removing the veil of death. He has already begun wiping away the tears. He has already taken away your shame. Because Jesus has already paid the debt we owe. Jesus has already remedied the sin that separates us from God and from one another. Jesus, God’s Son, has already died on that cross to take away your shame, to take away sin and death’s reproach. All you need is receive this gift of salvation, the forgiveness of sins. God has already brought salvation to His mountain, to this Hill.
And, God has provided a place, a church, to find strength, be encouraged, discover hope, find a family . . . the place to be assured that God has brought this salvation to you, that he is wiping away your tears and has taken away your shame . . .
I am so very grateful to the many people who empowered me to serve and minister to those that live in the Hill community of New Haven, Connecticut. I get that not everyone can uproot, change vocation, or relocate into the proximity of neighbors who live in neighborhoods like the Hill. So for some, God’s plan is to reallocate and relocate their own resources to support the likes of people such as my wife, Lisa, and me in a neighborhood like the Hill, ministering in, with, and through a church like Christ Presbyterian Church in The Hill. The generosity of friends, family, and some we’ve just met and some we haven’t met yet–all have empowered me to pastor a church and a community in a place called the Hill.
The Hill is actually a famous neighborhood that few people outside know about–well, at least famous for its place in American and New Haven’s history. The Hill, however, is more infamously known as “Sodom's Hill.” Yet in the early history of New Haven, the Trowbridge neighborhood (where Lisa and I actually have an apartment) was designated as a suburb–yes, that is correct, a suburb.
Back in early American history, the wealthy and affluent settled in city-centers, that is, urban living. As the immigrants and the poor increased in New Haven, the bottom-demographics were moved to new quarters in the sub-urban regions of the City. Think walking, horse, and horse and buggy as the primary modes of travel, so suburbs were basically the outer districts of the urban area. In fact, if you dig down, now, under the sidewalks and tar of the roads around Trowbridge Square (where our apartment in the Hill is located), you’d find the old trolley car tracks; for this suburb was the trolley-hub to catch a ride to West or East Haven or even downtown New Haven. Ironically there is a little hill (again think horse and walking hill) to get up to Trowbridge, thus, the naming of our Hill community: “We’re going up the hill to catch a trolley” . . . “going up the Hill to walk home” . . . became over time, “We’re going to the Hill” . . . “We live in the Hill . . .” And as this small district settled with immigrants and the indigent of that day, it became dense as a very impoverished, poor suburb of New Haven, eventually being saddled with the nickname “Sodom's Hill.”
My supporters empower me to minister in this messy and hurting, but beautiful community, relocating their financial blessings to help the gospel to be planted in the heart of the Hill, changing lives, and lifting them and their neighbors above its unsavory nickname.
To many, the Hill community is an uncool place. Planting and growing a church in the midst of an urban (aka old suburban), under-resourced, minority-populated (51% Hispanic; 39% Black) neighborhood is crazy, yet absolutely needed: 43% unemployment; nearly 85% of Hill residents live in subsidized housing; and, 70% of New Haven’s parole population is resident in the Hill. This neighborhood needs a gospel-centered, community-focused church in its midst. My financial partners empower me to empower our congregation to focus on the community. And, I am so proud (in every right sense of that word) that is exactly what CPC in The Hill is known for: being a church that is for its neighborhood, one that is present, many times outside its building’s walls, serving its community.
The presence of CPC in The Hill helps to ameliorate the cliché that address is destiny. And, by God’s grace and the power of the gospel, we see lives changing, which will cause this community to flourish. Outside support allows me to spend time pastoring amidst this very poor and hurting neighborhood, and, as well, to be involved in the community, like as a member of the Hill Management Team and by showing up, literally, everywhere in the Hill. And, such outside support ensures I can continue sharing the gospel and, even, as it so happens, just outside my apartment door do some regular street pastoral counseling.
God certainly has prepared me for this ministry, theologically, as well as, socially and vocationally. I like calling it now, “My-Lived-Out-Theology.”
I had always thought these past 20 years were God’s seminary-training for me. I've written on this (i.e., social action, church, and evangelism), articles, even a book, and in some way that has been self-preparation for this ministry, as well.
I continue to be humbled by my call to the Hill. Humbled more so that people, friends, churches (a few churches anyway) support, especially financially and materially, our gospel work here in the Hill. I am so grateful to those who give of their own resources so I am empowered to serve and, as some in the Hill refer to me, to be the pastor of the Hill.
Although I have yet to reach 100% of our fundraising needs, still because of the generosity of others, I have the ability to do this full time. And, trust me, it takes full time. This allows me to be where I need to be when I need to be there; not just hospital visits or at a kitchen table or a church activity, but out my front door to counsel those, who, almost as if they are waiting for me, need a word or a prayer from the Pastor, to show up at town and community meetings, and simply to be visible in the needed places of Hill life.
I will find out this coming week regarding our FY20 budget (our fiscal year is 9/1–8/31), whether it was approved or modified. Yes, I am a little worried this year--our church does grow and will grow mostly with the same population that lacks resources, and more people means more resources needed to minister. We are a church that has become well known so our outreach activities (especially ones related to food!) increase in people served; thus, our need for our own resources to increase. The FY20 budget reflected a mere 6% increase; but without hitting our fundraising goal (so far) for FY19 (43k and currently at 83%), I am not sure where we stand (next week I will). A vision budget would include the funds to help obtain someone dedicated to reaching Hill teenagers and, as well, funds to help people in our congregation to start businesses and to start our own coffee shop, our own food co-op here in the Hill. But these must wait until more outside brothers and sisters see this vision as well.
Nonetheless, I am blessed to be in a place where I can minister the gospel, demonstrating what loving one’s neighbor looks like in an under-resourced neighborhood; to be a pastor to the people of the Hill; to disciple a church to be a model of God’s kingdom; and, to be present in such a way to multiple opportunities for Hill men and women, Hill children, boys and girls, Hill young people, teenagers so they may find eternal life and a new life in the Hill.
I am grateful that others give out of their own resources so that I am empowered to be a pastor in the Hill. If you'd like to know more how you can help, email me at ChipCPCtheHill@gmail.com.
Wasted Blogger, Chip M. Anderson
I am the pastor and church planter for Christ Presbyterian Church in The Hill; a flawed practitioner of Wasted Evangelism. I am learning about Wasted Evangelism through my experience in The Hill and through the good people of CPC in The Hill.